I listened to these songs (over and over and over) while writing the Love is Messy books. Some are personalized for Luke and Lexi's taste, and some I think just really fit the book. Enjoy!
Before I can get started, let me give a little back story, word-vomit style. In 2010 I graduated with a degree in psychology and got a job at a residential facility for children with mental illnesses ranging from depression to violent, schizophrenic tendencies. I worked there Friday-Sunday and on every holiday (yes, Thanksgiving, Xmas Eve, and Xmas) and still picked up shifts at the pet store I worked at while completing my degree. Retail...*shudders*
My husband is a teacher, and our first year and a half of marriage was spent never having a day off together. The money was crap, the hours were horrible, and I'd fantasize about getting in a car accident on the way to work because that sounded better than actually clocking in. Nothing serious, maybe a little fender-bender or something similar that would get me out of my shift. Something had to change. So I went back to school again and in 2013, graduated with a degree in nursing, and started working in long term care/rehab. The pay got better, but the hours got longer, and I was still working weekends and holidays again, and evenings on the weekdays.
Now, about writing...wait, I lied. I need more backstory. Technically. I’ve been published since 2012. But I took about a year hiatus when nursing school (and then working as a nurse), a new baby, and writing became too much and I just couldn’t keep up. I made my come back almost exactly a year ago when I published Never Say Never. I felt like a debut author again, and was a brand spanking new fish in the ocean that is contemporary romance.
When I published NSN in September 2015, I was still working nights, weekends, and holidays as a nurse. I wouldn’t get home until 1AM or later, would write as long as I could (I was pregnant with baby #2), and then get up early with my toddler, who went through a horribly annoying phase of getting up at the butt crack of dawn. I was exhausted, emotional from pregnancy hormones, and technically on modified bed rest because of intense pain and cramping I kept having (which was from stress and lack of sleep…but I couldn’t afford to NOT work, so I was stuck in a bitter cycle).
The book did well. Not as well as I’d hoped, I admit, but well enough for a book by someone who’d been pretty much non existent over the last year, and by someone who had no fans in the genre. I made enough to scale back on hours and focus on my next release (Outside the Lines), which I dumbly planned 2.5 weeks before my due date, and the day after my sister’s wedding.
Long story short…the horrible timing hurt the release. It didn’t move as well as NSN, but still wasn’t horrible enough for me to scrap the whole writing thing. But it shook my confidence.
Now, OtL was done before it’s release date, and I started working on another book that I’d been itching to start for months. I wrote the blurb before I even started the book, which is a first for me, which shows how excited I was for this. I usually put off blurbs as long as humanly possible. I almost killed myself from exhaustion, but I finished the first draft before I went into labor, which was perfect. I figured I’d take a good 2-3 weeks off and not even open my computer, then start edits and have everything lined up perfectly for my Jan 28th release date.
My new baby was perfect and I couldn’t ask for more. But…she had her days and nights mixed up. I was tired and sore from giving birth, and then was staying up pretty much all night either getting her back to sleep (usually unsuccessfully) or editing and marketing. I pushed the release back 2 weeks and just KNEW this book was a failure. If it wasn’t for my amazing friends and family encouraging me to keep the faith, I wouldn’t have published this book. I put my heart and soul into it, they reminded me. Even if it flops, I owe it to myself to publish the book.
So I published it.
And it didn’t flop. It did the exact opposite. I watched the sales pour in and my KDP page reads grow and grow and grow. Before the month was over, I had already made more from that one book than I could make working as a nurse for an entire year. It was amazing. It was surreal. And…it had to be a huge mistake. People were buying my book by mistake. Amazon had a week-long glitch that jacked up my page reads. The glitch must have continued into the next week. And the next…
This continued, from February until right now as I’m sitting here writing this. Things just kind of exploded in the best way. I quit my job as a nurse. I can stay home with my young children, earing way more than I ever thought possible. I got audio book deals. I had a title hit the NYT Bestseller List. I was making a good six figures. Things were going better than I ever could dreamed, yet my anxiety started to increase tenfold.
I had this weird sense of being a fraud, of not being worthy of considering myself successful, even though I’d crossed off multiple goals I’d hope to meet someday. There were other authors more successful, hitting the NYT list again and again, with loads of fans and a huge social media following. Yes, I’m making lots of money. But others make more. I didn’t get 3K views on the video I posted in my street team. My cover reveal didn’t get shared 800 times. I don’t have thousands and thousands of IG followers.
So I’m NOT successful.
I can pay my bills from writing money. People come to see me at book events. I’ve reached a level as an author I only dreamed about. My goal to make it into the Top 100 on Amazon was met multiple times.
I was proud of myself and felt like the hours and hours I spent at my desk, and all the sleepless nights finally paid off. I tried to remind myself of the hours I put in at my other jobs, of sacrificing holidays, not spending all Christmas with my one year old because I had to work, of the hours I put in after writing to market and organize promos. It was hard work. There were times I cried from exhaustion. But...others work hard too.
And then I didn’t feel worthy.
Other people work hard too. Why are my books doing well and theirs aren’t? I don’t deserve this. Yeah, I like to think I’m a good person, but I’m sure there are better people.
I went back on forth on this until the anxiety became crippling. Self doubt filled me at all times, affecting my whole life and not just writing. Any pride I felt from reaping rewards of hard work was shadowed by guilt of not being good enough. I had this weird fear that others were judging me, snickering behind my back that I thought I was successful, because I’m not. It put me into an existential crisis that took time and energy away from, well, everything.
And that’s when a friend told me about imposter syndrome. I looked it up and thought holy shit, that’s me.
I’m a private person when it comes to social media. I honestly don’t know if I’ll even post this. Or I’ll post and delete a minute or two later. If you’re reading this, consider yourself lucky. I feel like a fraud for writing this. Because you have to be successful to have imposture syndrome, and I’m not successful.
Which is exactly why I’m writing this.
I’m writing this because imposter syndrome mostly affects women, and I think that says something about our society’s views on successful women.
I’m writing this because talking about our emotions—especially the bad ones—is still taboo.
I’m writing this because there is a chance if you’re reading it, you’re feeling imposture syndrome too, and I want you to know you’re not alone.
Ladies, please email me or fill out the contact form on this site to claim your prizes! :) Thanks for participating in the takeover! (Email: email@example.com)
#1-Copy of First Comes Love-Jo Lawless
#2-Any of my books-Sharon Standke
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#4-$5 Amazon GC-Colleen Noyes
#5-Copy of Outside the Lines-Stefanie Carney
I've been an equestrian my whole life. From the moment I rode my first horse when I was only two years old until now, I live and breathe all things horses. I also love all things fiction, from books to movies to TV shows. And when horses are in said fiction? Even better. It's a double win! However, there are a few things that I can't help but find cringe-worthy when horses are in a fictional setting. And those few things can so easily be avoided if the writers did just a tiny bit of research. I know not everyone has horses (I'm sad for you if you don't. I think everyone should have a horse...or two...or three...) and that a lot of authors base their horse knowledge on what they've seen on TV or read in other books. But a lot of that is wrong. So a cycle begins of misconceptions and myths.
Here are the top ten that I see:
1.) Whinnying and rearing. I'm not sure why these two are often written together. Horses rear out of fear, frustration, when they are in pain, of if they have too much energy. Horses whinny to call to someone, usually another horse or their human. A whinny is not a scream. A horse will not rear in fear and whinny at the same time. I see this in almost every fictional setting horses are in. Why? I have no clue. To add drama, maybe? Whatever the reason, please stop writing this!
2.) Hay and straw aren't the same. If you feed a horse straw, you'll have a problem later. For that reason, stalls aren't bedded with straw. Now, I'm sure some people might still do this, but I've yet to meet someone in today's day and age who beds with straw. Hay is varying degrees of green and smells wonderful (I say so at least). Straw is yellow and not very fragrant. You don't bed a stall with hay either. Hay is food (and expensive!).
3.) Hot horses and water. It used to be believed that letting a horse drink water after riding was bad. We now know this isn't true, and that depriving a horse a drink is bad for them. During exercise, a horse can lose 5-10% of their body weight through sweat. They need to replenish that or risk getting heat excretion, which is fatal if not treated. Don't deprive your fictional horse of water!
4.) Horses only lie down when injured. This isn't true at all! Horses lie down all the time. We had a pony named Bailey who would plop down in the pasture, soak up the sun, and graze while stretched out. Horses like to lie down and rest, and will lay down with all four legs sticking straight out to sleep.
5.) Horses are protective of their people. Okay, I actually hate admitting this one to be false. I love thinking my horses and I have bonded so strong they will take out a mountain lion for me. But in reality, horses are not prey animals. They run when scared. Horses WILL attack back, though. Our mare never hesitates to attempt to stomp on my dog when he gets too close. But if you are walking and something comes out at you, your horse isn't going to act like a dog and put himself between you and said scary object. I will say there are exceptions to this. Some horses are protective of their owners, but overall, don't write a horse like a loyal German Shepherd.
6.) You can't ride a baby horse. Ideally, horses aren't ridden until they are at least 2-3 years old. Putting the weight of a rider on a horse that is still growing is detrimental to their bones. I think this misconception happens because people who aren't familiar with horses think of them as big dogs, and you can train a puppy. Horses are not like big dogs, and the social structure of a herd is very different than a pack.
7.) A stallion is NOT a breed of horse! A stallion is a male horse that has not had his balls chopped off. Nothing is more glaringly obvious that the writer knows absolutely nothing about horses than using "stallion" as a breed. Mares are female horses (you don't spay a horse). Geldings are male horses with no balls. Stallions are males horses with balls. None of those are breeds. Most male horses you run into will be gelded. Overall, stallions are a bit more hot tempered than geldings, though it's not uncommon to have a sweet stallion. And all mares suffer from PMS (pissy mare syndrome) ;)
8.) Being lame isn't a death sentence. Modern veterinary medicine has come a long way. Breaks, sprains, and fractures can be treated and healed. Vet care for equines is very costly, but jumping to grabbing the gun when a horse comes up lame is not likely to happen. I've lost count of the times my horses have come up lame and then recovered. Unless the injury is extremely severe, being lame is not a reason to be put down.
9.) Horses are big, dumb animals. If you're going to write a horse like this, please stop. Horses are sensitive, emotional creatures able to read body language and social cues. They pick up on everything. They remember everything. They have feelings and can think. My TWH, Bob, knows how to let himself out of his stall and how to let the other horses out. He figures out how to take halters, fly masks, and blankets off the other horses too.
10.) Horses are easy to care for. Other than the obvious (grooming, exercise, stall cleaning) horses need to have their hooves taken care of every 4-6 weeks. Temperatures need to be monitored in extreme heat (fans in stalls, frequent cooling with cold water, extra water to drink) and cold (extra food for extra calories, blankets for horses unable to keep warm without). You need to be careful with sun exposure; horses can get skin cancer and sunburn. Wet turnouts can lead to rainrot, hoof issues, slips and falls. You need to monitor spring grass intake and deal with insects. The list goes on and on. Horses take a lot of time and commitment if they are to be cared for properly.
11.) Anyone can ride a horse. I know I said the top 10, but I have to include this one too. Putting anyone on any horse is dangerous. If you have a bomb-proof, push-button horse, then yes, probably anyone can get on and hit the trails with little instruction. But putting a novice rider on a green horse is a disaster waiting to happen. My Arabian, Mystery, was trained and had lots of show experience. But he had a very particular way to be ridden (that took me a while to figure out) and if just anyone got on him, they wouldn't stay on for long. It takes skill to ride a horse.
Horses can greatly add to a piece of fiction...if done correctly. And horse people love to talk about horses, so authors, never hesitate to ask one of us for help if you want to include the wonderful equine in your next novel :)
Whoa. What a crazy, intense, emotional week it has been.
The good: First Comes Love hit the Top 20 on amazon, and the Top 100 on Amazon AUS, CA, and UK, making it an internationally best selling book. I got on the Overall Bestselling Top 100 author list on amazon. I got an offer for print rights for FCL to be in bookstores nationwide.
What. The. F&%K. I keep looking wondering if somehow my eyes are playing tricks on me or I'm looking at the wrong book. I always dreamed that I would hit these goals, but honestly didn't think it would happen anytime soon. Now that it is, it's surreal. Very surreal.
And I'm extremely humbled that people I don't know are buying and reading my book. A book that kicked my ass in the worst way. I wrote this book right after having a baby (who had her days and nights mixed up for about 2 months). I gave up sleep and sanity for this book and wanted to throw in the towel many times. If I've ever learned a lesson in not giving up and to "keep on keeping on", this was it.
The bad: I lost my sweet boy, Mystery. After two weeks of struggling to get him to eat and drink, his condition was deemed neurological with no cure and I made the hardest decision of my life to let him go with dignity and painlessly cross the Rainbow Bridge. My heart is broken over the loss of my horse. He was 25. He lived a long, good life. Remembering that comforts me, but I miss him so much it hurts.
I can say with certainty that it is weird to have all of your career and book goals coming true at the same time you lose one of your best friends. The flip-flopping emotions is exhausting, more than I ever imagined.
But one thing the events of this past week has shown, is that I have some pretty amazing friends, family, and readers who are their to support and celebrate my success, and express sorrow and empathy for my loss.
I can only say "thank you" so many times before it gets redundant, but seriously, thank you. Having you all with me through the ups and downs means more than I can express. <3
Sometimes things don't happen like you expect them to. Things come up, schedules get rearranged, and things get pushed back. And that's exactly what happened with the Guardian Legacy Series. I didn't have Unbound and Reaper for sale for very long, so it still surprises me (in a good way of course!) that so many people have asked me about Moonlight.
I pulled Unbound and Reaper from sale a while ago to get them cleaned up, recovered, and rebranded. Not much has changed in Unbound and Reaper (they are cleaner with a tighter plot), and the new covers will be revealed soon. I love them!
Now, for Moonlight...I am not going to give an exact date just yet, but it *will* be out before the end of the year. As long as my schedule stays like it is, I'm shooting for an October release.
I do have a date for Unbound's rerelease, and it's July 30th. ARC sign-ups are going out very soon!
Thanks everyone for your continued support and patience!